HAVERHILL — It was Senior Day for Whittier yesterday afternoon, but it was a pair of juniors who had the biggest impact in helping the Wildcats get back on track.
Junior Jesus Sanchez rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and classmate Connor Bradley completed 7 of 9 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats smothered Brighton, 44-18, to end a two-game losing streak.
That lifts the Wildcats to 6-4 heading into their Nov. 27 matchup at Greater Lawrence.
“This was a big win for us, especially for the seniors,” said Sanchez, who now has 1,029 yards and 12 TDs for the season. “The last couple of games were tough, but we wanted this. It’s going to give us confidence going into our last game.”
The game didn’t start well as Whittier kicked off short and Brighton returned the ball to the Whittier 25. The Bengals scored six plays later on a 4th-and-goal from the 12 when quarterback Jaylin Apperwhite eluded some careless tacklers and threw it into the end zone to Michael Dereus.
But Whittier turned the game around when Robby Granstorff intercepted the ensuing conversion pass and returned it 97 yards for two points.
The rest of the first half belonged to Whittier, which scored touchdowns on its first four possessions. Bradley followed runs of 23 and 31 yards by Sanchez with a three-yard TD run to get it going and then threw eight yards to Jaylin Deveau for a 16-6 lead. Scoring runs of 15 and 7 yards by Sanchez, the last one following an onsides kick, made it a commanding 32-6 at halftime.
Sanchez scored again in the third period to make it 38-6 and sophomore reserve Shane Mumbro got loose on a 52-yard run in the final frame. Brighton scored twice in the fourth period against the Whittier reserves.
One senior who had a particularly good day for the Wildcats was Scott Bonneau. He caught four passes for 84 yards, including a beautiful 31-yard juggling reception, rushed four times for 24 yards and scored a 2-point conversion run.
“Scotty played a great game and does everything for us,” said Whittier coach Kevin Bradley. “He also was great on defense, totally shutting them down on his side.”
Another senior, huge lineman Kevin Bean, scored on a conversion run, and classmates Xabvier Gomez and Jake McCartney were effective applying pressure on Brighton quarterback Apperwhite after the first series.
“I thought we came out and played the way Whittier can play — aggressive,” said Bradley. “The seniors wanted this and they played like it. We’re getting better.”
Brighton, which suffered a serious blow early in the third quarter when two-way back Ricardo Edwards suffered an apparent hip injury and was taken away in an ambulance, finished its season with a 7-3 record.
Whittier 44, Brighton 18
Brighton Acad. (7-3): 6 0 0 12 — 18
Whittier (6-4): 10 22 6 6 — 4
B — Michael Dereus 12 pass from Jalen Apperwhite (pass failed), 7:53
W — Robby Granstorff 97 return of conversion pass, 7:53
W — Connor Bradley 3 run (Jesus Sanchez run), 5:32
W — Jaylin Deveau 8 pass from Bradley (run failed), 10:54
W — Sanchez 15 run (Scott Bonneau run), 2:48
W — Sanchez 7 run (Kevin Bean run), 0:08
W — Sanchez 24 run (run failed), 7:13
B — Apperwhite 11 run (pass failed), 6:33
W — Shane Mumbro 52 run (run failed), 2:39
B — Dereus 92 kickoff return (run failed), 2:16
RUSHING: W (32-168) — Jesus Sanchez 14-128, Scott Bonneau 4-24, Connor Bradley 3-(-6), Robert Burke 1-5, Tyler L’Italien 1-3, Aifuwa Asemota 3-(-6), Jaylin Deveau 2-7, Jake McCartney 1-1, Corey Gauthier 1-4. Tim Trask 1-3, Gavin Anderson 1-2; B (13-49) — Ricardo Edwards 3-0, Apperwhite 7-21, Dexter Andrews 2-28, Nixon Marcelon 1-0
PASSING: W — Bradley 7-9-0, 122; B — Apperwhite 8-12-0, 89
RECEIVING: W — Scott Bonneau 4-84, Robby Gramstorff 1-9, Sidney Taylor 1-21, Jaylin Deveau 1-8; B — Dereus 2-21, Andrews 6-62